Auction Houses - where two worlds meet! | Milaap
loans added to your basket
Total : 0
Pay Now

Auction Houses - where two worlds meet!

Auction houses continue a cultural legacy for the city of Kolkata. On a normal auction day, one would witness an array of products being bought and sold. A late artist's wife sells her saree after she has worn them once, while an elderly gentleman visits to sell his books. From purses to a bundle of old notes, every product finds a new buyer each week. It is in this revitalizing of age-old items, that the great past and the great future of the city, merges.

Investing in History

Auction houses have been valued for their theatrical value. In the 20th century, auction houses were visited by renowned artists, actors, and businessmen. In the mid-1900's, people flocked from Mumbai and Delhi, to view the spectacular reselling of magnificent products that hailed from the homes of the British and Bengali aristocracy.

With the shift of the Indian capital from Kolkata to Delhi, the city seized to be the bustling playground for aristocrats and businessmen, as it once was. Since then, the business has been deteriorating. “It’s also because consulates left Calcutta for Delhi. When their staff left the city, they would sell a lot of fine, imported stuff,” said Salim Anwar, the owner of Russel exchange.

What was once a reflection of the city's rich culture, is now struggling to survive amidst a changing world. Yet, we can see a number of glorious mirrors to the past, strewn across the roads of Park Street. These auction houses have been passed on from one generation to another, carrying forward the legacy of the previous one. 'We devote our lives to this business, not only because of the family tradition. But also because it helps keep so many memories alive,' said an owner of an auction house, with great pride.

Where Old Calcutta Meets New Kolkata 

Starting from products sold in Russel Exchange and Suman Exchange to Victor Brother's and Shiraz M Tanksalwalla's antique furniture, these products have a way of thriving in a world that is constantly in a state of flux. They serve as a window to the past. As a lover of all things antique and historical, my visits to these auction houses stirred a great deal of admiration for the city's history.

'New stuff doesn't usually have the character I adore - the rust, the chipped paint, the history.' - Heather Salazar.

Will History Survive in the Future?

True to the essence of Kolkata's Park Street, the auction houses too, revive memories for people. Antique corded telephones with rotary dials rang a bell in my memory, as I was reminded of the telephone that my family used when I was a child. Similarly, I saw type-writers and stereo sets that I had not seen functioning for the last 14-15 years. As a 22-year-old, I will barely be able to vouch for the sentimental value of the auction houses. But, for the predecessors of our generation, I can imagine how the same items transport them to another era; a dying one.  

And thus, the auction houses serve their purpose - of keeping a dying history alive. Even though many are closing down, it will be a while before the city of Kolkata is devoid of these gems.

The new will come and go, but it is these antique pieces that will tell stories and keep history alive.